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Old 12-05-2013, 11:31 AM
HlaaluStyle HlaaluStyle is offline

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Default Geography and Foreign Policy: Russia

Russia's sheer size makes it difficult to comprehend. No other country can match it for sheer scope and breadth. Spanning 11 time zones, entire empires could overstretch themselves without ever going beyond the current boundaries. It was even bigger under the Soviets and the tsar.

That's why I'll start at the beginning, before Russia existed as a state. European Russia is still an immense piece of land. Covered in plains and forests, and with a number of large rivers, it lacks much in the way of geographic defenses. This allowed waves of migrants and conquerors to move through the area, most notably the Varangians whose arrival is often seen as the genesis of Russia (or Ukraine, depending on who you ask).

The Ural Mountains in the east failed to offer much protection against the Golden Horde that conquered Russia and held it until overthrown by Ivan III. Much like China, Russia's existence has been shaped by the threat of Central Asian nomads against which it has little real geographic defense.

There's a geopolitical element as well. The vastness of Central Asia defies easy control, which meant that Russia could not rely on eastern buffer states to slow or absorb these large-scale invasions. This may be one reason that Russia sought to expand eastwardsbasically, if no one else was around to do the job, the Russians would do it themselves.

(This is not to say that Central Asia was devoid of peoplefar from it. However, the northern regions that constitute modern central Russia were sparsely inhabited).

Unlike China, Russia has been quite able to project its power over long distances. The country's current shape is a testament to this fact. This demands a great deal of administrative and logistical expertise. This ties in with the idea that Russia's strategy rests on resource exports.

The British geography Mackinder believed in a concept he called the Heartland: the tremendous stretch of Central Asia. This area possesses valuable resources, but these resources were (until the 19th century) largely unattainable due to the region's remoteness from the coast.

Under the tsars and the Soviets, Russia was able to actually command the Heartland thanks to railroads which brought in expertise and machinery from the west and shipped the resources taken from Central Asia to the major population center. Now, Mackinder vastly overemphasized the importance of the Heartland (and underestimated the importance of seapower), but the Heartland does present a great advantage to whomever controls it.

Here's the catchRussia no longer directly controls all of it. A key foreign policy goal of the Russian state will be to exert influence over Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states in order to access their energy and mineral wealth. In this, Russia will compete against China.

The Central Asian states are currently in a bit of geographic limbo. While tied to Russia by recent history, they have strong cultural ties to the Middle East. The proposed Eurasian Union will bring many of these states into closer Russian orbit, should it become a reality.

Currently, no Middle Eastern power is able to project influence into Central Asia, though Iran (as well as the South Asian power of India) may conceivably attempt to in the future. The big players during the next decade or so, however, will be Russia and China.

To the west, Europe presents a potential threat. Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Napoleonic French, Nazis, and others have all made attempts at conquering or controlling Russia. The trauma of the Nazi invasiona war conducted not for conquest but for annihilationis still fresh.

This is one reason that Russia has an interest in exerting control over eastern Europe. Eastern European states can act as buffers against Western/Central European ambitions.

One way that Russia exerts influence over Europe is through the gas pipelines. Russia is the biggest source of gas and oil for Europe, and the importance of this resource allows Russia to influence European policy.



Of these, the Nord Stream pipeline is particularly interesting. This is the northern underwater pipeline that connects directly with Germany. The location means that Russia can supply the lucrative Western/Central European market even if it choose to cut off the pipelines going through Eastern Europe. This makes Eastern Europe more beholden to Russia. Russia did cut off all gas to Ukraine for a few days in early 2006.

The recent debacle in Ukraine may be seen as an example of this. However, I suspect that the major reason the EU let it go is because Brussels policymakers are not necessarily interested in incorporating Ukraine (I'm sure Kir the Wizard knows much more about this than meplease correct me if I'm wrong).

A premier land power, Russia has traditionally been a bit lacking when it comes to sea power. Nonetheless, the Russian government has realized (since Peter the Great) the importance of having at least some naval presence. Traditionally, Russia has had three coasts (the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Pacific). Aside from the Pacific, these are all rather small and require Russian ships to go through or near the maritime zones of control of other states, putting a limit on its seapower.

However, I believe that the Arctic coast is now a viable avenue for Russian power. Increasing technology has made the wealth of the Arctic Sea attainable. Russia will likely invest in Arctic exploration and mining, where it will compete with the US, Canada, the Scandinavian states, and the UK. The Arctic coast does not allow for projection of sea power, but it does permit greater resource acquisition, which is a key component of modern Russian foreign policy.

Resources like gas and oil are a useful bedrock for Russia's strategy. This allows the state to exert influence over a large area in spite of its comparatively small population. I predict that Russia will use energy (attained from Central Asia and the Arctic) to shape European policy. It will continue to build up its eastern/Siberian hinterland, but this will be difficult due to China. There are already many Chinese speculators in Siberia, and China's proximity means it can more easily exert influence.
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Old 12-05-2013, 12:00 PM
Eagan Eagan is offline

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Not to deviate directly from the main topic, but

That map is a bit outdated, since it doesn't include Croatia in the EU. It also seems to be missing Montenegro, presumably because it dates to before that country separated from Serbia

But anyway, I do think that the EU will want Ukraine to gain membership. It is merely a matter of time. Now isn't really the best time for that to happen, for obvious reasons. Not to mention that Ukraine doesn't meet most of the ascension criteria, and has not even applied for candidacy. Extending the free trade agreement was meant to be a stopgap measure, I'd say, to give Ukraine a bone of sorts, but not give it the full package, at yet

But, to be honest, I expect Ukraine to be able to join before either Serbia or Bosnia, both of which are also actively preparing for membership.

I do wonder, however, what will happen with regard to Turkeythat's the real elephant in the room, atm.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:13 PM
Jungleluke Jungleluke is offline

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagan View Post
Not to deviate directly from the main topic, but

That map is a bit outdated, since it doesn't include Croatia in the EU. It also seems to be missing Montenegro, presumably because it dates to before that country separated from Serbia

But anyway, I do think that the EU will want Ukraine to gain membership. It is merely a matter of time. Now isn't really the best time for that to happen, for obvious reasons. Not to mention that Ukraine doesn't meet most of the ascension criteria, and has not even applied for candidacy. Extending the free trade agreement was meant to be a stopgap measure, I'd say, to give Ukraine a bone of sorts, but not give it the full package, at yet

But, to be honest, I expect Ukraine to be able to join before either Serbia or Bosnia, both of which are also actively preparing for membership.

I do wonder, however, what will happen with regard to Turkeythat's the real elephant in the room, atm.
I don't see Turkey joining, I think there politics at the moment are more focused on Middle-East/Asia.

Ukrain should really join the EU if they meet the requirements. I think it would be quite a pain in the ass for Russia if this happens. I''m no fan of Russia.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:22 PM
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If the Ukrainians are smart they'll stay the fuck away from the EU, only dealnig with it when it comes to trade It's doomed and the doom will come even faster if Turkey would ever join.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:26 PM
Jungleluke Jungleluke is offline

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Originally Posted by Yaskaleh View Post
If the Ukrainians are smart they'll stay the fuck away from the EU, only dealnig with it when it comes to trade It's doomed and the doom will come even faster if Turkey would ever join.
Whoa.

Just no.

There are so many social and economical pres for Ukrain if it joins the EU.

You're Norwegian, right? Your nation is quite wealthy and low-populated, so it has not much to seek in the EU, because it's doing fine on its own. But other countries just need some help and a push in the right direction. Might lessen corruption and make Europe a happy place.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:28 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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Originally Posted by Jungleluke View Post
Whoa.

Just no.

There are so many social and economical pres for Ukrain if it joins the EU.

You're Norwegian, right? Your nation is quite wealthy and low-populated, so it has not much to seek in the EU, because it's doing fine on its own. But other countries just need some help and a push in the right direction. Might lessen corruption and make Europe a happy place.
I'm swedish. I consider the EU my main political enemy.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:32 PM
Ashendant Ashendant is offline

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Originally Posted by Eagan View Post
But anyway, I do think that the EU will want Ukraine to gain membership. It is merely a matter of time. Now isn't really the best time for that to happen, for obvious reasons. Not to mention that Ukraine doesn't meet most of the ascension criteria, and has not even applied for candidacy. Extending the free trade agreement was meant to be a stopgap measure, I'd say, to give Ukraine a bone of sorts, but not give it the full package, at yet

But, to be honest, I expect Ukraine to be able to join before either Serbia or Bosnia, both of which are also actively preparing for membership.
The Ukranian president sold himself out to the Russian President and last time I checked the Ukranians are not happy about this.

There's also the problem that the Russian Customs Union is nothing but a tool to control their neighbours and give unfair advantages to Russia with penalizations to other members, which are also starting to complain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaskaleh View Post
I'm swedish. I consider the EU my main political enemy.
That is very sad. The EU is better than all of the other options.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Yaskaleh View Post
I'm swedish. I consider the EU my main political enemy.
Europe and your crazy politics.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:36 PM
PajamaSalad PajamaSalad is offline

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Originally Posted by Yaskaleh View Post
I'm swedish. I consider the EU my main political enemy.
Are most of the countries that like the EU the poorer ones that benefit from it and the ones that prop it up don't like it?
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:38 PM
Jungleluke Jungleluke is offline

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Europe is quite a good thing. Without it? The Netherlands would be piss-poor. We're a mercantile and small nation, without the euro everything would be far too expensive for us. Nobody would have liked to trade with our little shit-hole (almost literally) nation if that was the case.

I don't know for Sweden, but the EU is actually a good thing back here in Holland.


Quote:
Are most of the countries that like the EU the poorer ones that benefit from it and the ones that prop it up don't like it?
No, the Netherlands is one of the wealthier nations of the world. (with an amazing care-system) And the EU is liked here.

Scandinavia (+Denmark) and countries like Luxemburg are sometimes better though.



EDIT: Russia is like a big bully pulling the strings of European behaviour, because of gas, oil and the like.

Last edited by Jungleluke; 12-05-2013 at 02:41 PM..
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:41 PM
Ashendant Ashendant is offline

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Originally Posted by Jungleluke View Post
Europe is quite a good thing. Without it? The Netherlands would be piss-poor. We're a mercantile and small nation, without the euro everything would be far too expensive for us. Nobody would have liked to trade with our little shit-hole (almost literally) nation if that was the case.

I don't know for Sweden, but the EU is actually a good thing back here in Holland.




No, the Netherlands is one of the wealthier nations of the world. (with an amazing care-system) And the EU is liked here.

Scandinavia (+Denmark) and countries like Luxemburg are sometimes better though.
To be fair the Poor countries do receive more money, but that's the consequence of having a fair system.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:43 PM
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I don't think Europeans have to worry about the Big Red taking over them.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Jungleluke View Post
Europe is quite a good thing. Without it? The Netherlands would be piss-poor. We're a mercantile and small nation, without the euro everything would be far too expensive for us. Nobody would have liked to trade with our little shit-hole (almost literally) nation if that was the case.

I don't know for Sweden, but the EU is actually a good thing back here in Holland.




No, the Netherlands is one of the wealthier nations of the world. (with an amazing care-system) And the EU is liked here.

Scandinavia (+Denmark) and countries like Luxemburg are sometimes better though.



EDIT: Russia is like a big bully pulling the strings of European behaviour, because of gas, oil and the like.
It's ok since your country will become a sea due to rising sea levels as climate change continues anyway.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:46 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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I don't think Europeans have to worry about the Big Red taking over them.
We don't have to, it's heir is already ruling us. I'm so fed up with the Eu that if someone would start an armed uprising I would consider joining it. Let Brussels burn in the fires of freedom.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:51 PM
Ashendant Ashendant is offline

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We don't have to, it's heir is already ruling us. I'm so fed up with the Eu that if someone would start an armed uprising I would consider joining it. Let Brussels burn in the fires of freedom.
Freedom from a Union that promotes freedom?
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:01 PM
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I'm swedish. I consider the EU my main political enemy.
Awesome.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:03 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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Freedom from a Union that promotes freedom?
It say it provides freedom by putting shackles on us all. Same way that the Ussr said it provided freedom for it's people.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:04 PM
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It say it provides freedom by putting shackles on us all. Same way that the Ussr said it provided freedom for it's people.
Totalitarian Socialism.

You should hate Obama with me as well. We could be friends.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:05 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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Totalitarian Socialism.

You should hate Obama with me as well. We could be friends.
I consider Obama the worst president ever and you've had a few terribly awful presidents.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:12 PM
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I consider Obama the worst president ever and you've had a few terribly awful presidents.
I like you. You can date my sister.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:15 PM
Korath Korath is offline

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Originally Posted by Bolvar View Post
Totalitarian Socialism.

You should hate Obama with me as well. We could be friends.
Obame is far too right-wing for my taste, you know ?

Anyway, I hope that Ukrainian stay the fuck off the E.U. Hard enough that my nation as become the lapdog of Germany and the E.U instead of the free and powerful state that it was once, because of dumb President (more often than not form the Socialists, sadly) who didn't had the guts to do what they promised they would in France and then turned to Europe to "enter the History".

But, on the Russia subject, I think that its multi-ethnic character (as it is the case in China) should be addressed, because it could potentially led to a lot of tension. By the way, can we hope some Goegraphy on Vietnam, which is an interesting contender for domination in the Southern Chinese Sea.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:17 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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I like you. You can date my sister.


Back on topic. I have no problems with Russia moving around trying to protect their assets and sphere of influence. That people Like Carl Bildt burst a vein in anger over it shows what a hypocrit he is. Isn't the Eu doing the same? Even more wierd now with the turmoil in Kiev, organised by a party that's by the media deemed as a neo-nazi party yet people like Bildt support them. The world is really upside down.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:18 PM
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I don't know how the EU can be considered evil. It has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of places I would not've been able to otherwise, and has helped many countries reform their justice and legislative systems.

Sure, the EU has its problems, and its bureaucracy, but the pros outweigh the cons.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:33 PM
Ashendant Ashendant is offline

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I don't know how the EU can be considered evil. It has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of places I would not've been able to otherwise, and has helped many countries reform their justice and legislative systems.

Sure, the EU has its problems, and its bureaucracy, but the pros outweigh the cons.
It's usually bad to the nationalists, those that want their countries living in a protectionist shell. It also has a good ecological effect too.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:38 PM
Yaskaleh Yaskaleh is offline

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It's usually bad to the nationalists, those that want their countries living in a protectionist shell. It also has a good ecological effect too.
What? do you have any idea how bad the subsidies of the Eu for the transportation costs affects pollution? Instead of producing stuff locally which often harms the climate less while also following the local laws and regulations you can now transport stuff all over europe without the extra costs of transportation. do that from a country that through their less beneficial treatment of their workers and less animal protection can charge less for their products thanks to the subsidies then you've got a system that destroy local production. It's terrible and only that would be enough for me to be hostile towards the EU. Subsidies payed with OUR tax money.
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